tonight on "nightline" -- busted, one of the most powerful men in the world, a man many thought would be the next president of france, sits in a new york city jail, after a housekeeping maid accuses him of imprisonment, rape and a naked chase through a pricey hotel suite. we have the very latest on this international scandal. mile-high mall. ever find yourself justifying the urge to buy a garden yeti or foot alignment socks or potty training kit for your cat? you can blame the marketing maestros behind sky mall. tonight, how a novel idea became a $100 million bazaar. and sacrificed. to save big cities, small towns are being intentionally flooded. we spent time with the people
who stand to lose everything. good evening. i'm bill weir. tonight, in an 11 x 13 foot cell, surrounded by suspected pushers and pimps sits the man many thought would be the next president of france. a man with the job of keeping the global economy from collapse as head of the international monetary fund. he's accused of violent sexual crimes on one of society's most vulnerable. my co-anchor terry moran has the latest. >> reporter: he is one of the most powerful men in the world. a titan of global banking. a jet setter with homes on three continents. a man many believed would be the next president of france. but this morning in room 130 of
the manhattan criminal court, he was just another defendant. >> docket 2011 ny 0 p 5773. dominique strauss-kahn. step up, please. >> reporter: dominique strauss-kahn, 62 years old, unshaven after two nights in a new york jail, stood stone-faced. as the prosecutor announced the grim charges against him. >> -- restraining a hotel employee inside of his room. he sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her. when he was unsuccessful, he forced her to perform oral sex on him -- >> reporter: the employee, a 32-year-old immigrant mother working as a maid, has told police strauss-kahn emerged naked from the bathroom, chased her, locked the door, and as the complain against him puts it, engaged in oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct by forcible compulsion.
the maid immediately reported the incident to hotel authorities and the police. the alleged attack happened saturday, here, in a new york hotel suite that cost $3,000 a night. that kind of lavish lifestyle is just the way dominique strauss-kahn rolled. >> this kind of guy, when you arrive in the room, who will sort of focus and magnetize all of the attention. >> reporter: strauss-kahn's decades of experience that brought him to the pinnacle of power in france and in international banking. he's a ph.d. economist, one of the leaders of the socialist party in france. and, since 2007, the head of the international monetary fund. an enormously powerful global bank created by the united nations to help run the world's finance system. when he talks, people listen. >> when we look at the figures, we see that the global level -- is coming back.
we all know it's fragile and uneven. >> reporter: to see him today in court with small-time drug dealers and other low lives, that was a shock. but there has always been talk about dominique strauss-kahn, as the french journalist apolline told us. >> those kinds of things are private but of course we know dominique strauss-kahn has been someone who loves woman. >> reporter: he has been married three times. for 20 years to his current wife, american-born anne st. cla clair, a huge tv star in france. >> she has these majestic blue eyes. it's such a couple. it's more than a couple. i would say it's a team. >> reporter: love, of course, is one thing. sexual violence is another. [ speaking foreign language ] four years ago, on a tv talk show, a young french writer, tristane banon, said
strauss-kahn attacked her in 2002. [ speaking foreign language ] banon never pressed charges. her mother, fearing for her career, told her not to. in court today, the prosecutor said the powerful defendant was a flight risk and should be denied bail. >> he is a person of means, of sophisticati sophistication. by all appearance, he has the resources to evade capture -- >> reporter: in fact, strauss-kahn was arrested on board a plane at jfk airport, about to take off for france. more evidence, prosecutors say, of guilt. but his lawyer, benjamin brafman, organized otherwise, forcefully. >> this theory he ran is simply not true. i've also indicate head went to the airport on a flight that was booked long before this incident for a meeting in germany. we have the itinerary. >> reporter: in the end, the judge denied bail. at least for a few days.
police investigators have gathered forensic evidence from strauss-kahn, fingernail scrappings and the like, to try to prove a crime of violence took place. but his lawyer says it's all a mistake. >> we'll prove in our judgment that mr. strauss-kahn is innocent of these charges. we think this case is very defensible. and his principal attention is to try and clear his name and re-establish his good name. >> reporter: but tonight, dominique strauss-kahn sits in an 11 x 13 foot jail cell in rikers island. a long way from a $3,000 hotel suite. >> it is now a legal drama. just under way. our thanks to terry moran. coming up, have you ever been on a plane, opened the sky mall catalog and wondered, where do they find this stuff? we go looking and share their lucrative secrets.
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what is it about being 36,000 feet in the sky that makes you want to buy a chocolate phofondue fountain? some credit belongs to the folks who put together the "sky mall" catalog. in the past couple decades, it has exploded into a slice of american commerce too successful and too bizarre for this reporter to ignore. you forgot to bring a book. and after a certain point, animal shaped clouds no longer entertain. so you inevitably reach for the staple of the seat back.
and soon you marvel at the sheer number of novelty watches, foot remedies and baldness camouflage. you wonder how the trickle of that peeing boy of brussels statue might enhance the backyard ambience. who picks the gag tool belt sweat pants? the electric head massager? what exactly are they smoking? like a modern ponce delayon, i set out to find them and ended up next to the phoenix airport. this is sky mall? >> this is where it all happens. >> christine aguilera is the president. when she's not busy hearing dumb jokes about her name -- ♪ what a girl wants -- she oversees the catalog. unlike any other. i'm curious who your customer base is. just judging from this it seems like a lot of customers have aging pets and foot problems.
>> you'd be surprised how many people have pelts and foot problems. they tend to be very well educated. and high disposable income. so as far as a retailer and consumer base, it's one of best ones out there. >> really? >> yeah. >> so it's the ivy leaguers going for the backyard yeti sculpture? >> i don't know if ivy leaguer is the right word but it's certainly people who have high disposable income. >> the company began in 1990 when phones on planes were a new rage. in those days, if you ordered something midflight, sky mall would have it waiting at baggage claim. which turned out to be a horrible idea. >> they loved the idea of shoch during their downtime on the plane. but, you know, who need ace set of patio furniture at baggage claim? >> these days, they ship the stuff directly to customers who mostly order from the ground and/or the internet. >> monday mornings, we see a nice strong peak. ironical ironically, when folks go to work. >> how about when bars close?
>> things remain a little quiet for us. >> the sky mall team tries to keep them happy by scouring 25 trade shows a year, rejecting 98% of what they find. what are your most popular items? >> one of our popular items is the easy bed. all you do is plug it in, turn it on and it opens by itself. >> here's the brownie pan. so you have edges everywhere you cut. customers love those. >> what is that? >> it's called a bracelet buddy. it helps women put bracelets on. >> is this the bug vacuum? >> the infamous bug vac. >> i might get this for my wife because she really hates spiders. what's going on here? what's with the flare hair visor? >> i've seen them around, people wearing them in town here. >> sure. this is my favorite product out of your catalog. just based on the guy on the front. he looks like he may be deceased. you blow that up? >> you do.
you do. >> would you use that? >> i will fess up and tell you i don't have one of those but i have been out and i've seen people using them. >> there are no overseas, outsourced call centers at sky mall. they do it all here. where the typical rep will take a couple hundred calls a day. cane take some calls? >> i wish you could take some calls but the training program would take too long. >> come on, man, i can push some slnakets for you right now. >> i'm sure -- >> they tell me the slankets are moving without my help. which is good because this place is a lagging economic indicator. for sky mall, the recession is over. he don't release figures. it's estimated this place sells over $100 million worth of stuff each year. well, not all their choices are best-sellers. >> we had an egyptian themed toilet seat cover. that one didn't take off. >> didn't move? huh. a final word to the wise. if you do go for the inflatable sky rest, get yourself a peaceful progression wake-up
clock at the same time. otherwise, you must just miss your flight. it's the best hunched-over sleep i've had in years. i stand corrected on that. team sky mall tells me they reject 98% of the products they see, so your move, bunyon be gone inventor. get on it. next, some folks who are a different take on disposable goods. they're trying to prepare for the worst. in the past, when we thought about computing, we thought about boxes. on a smarter planet, computing has left the box. generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. today everything computes. which means we need to think differently about computing. how we manage it. how we deliver it. how we design it to run a railroad spot a trend. spot a market change and act on it. a smarter planet is built with smarter computing. i'm an ibmer.
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there's a slow-motion disaster up folding in the lower mississippi basin tonight where the army corps of engineers has opened four gates at the morganza spillway, the pressure valve they're depending on. entire towns now completely under water. people in the small town of butte la rose know they could be next. abc's yunji de nies. >> reporter: 50 miles to the north of butte la rose, the
floodgates have been opened at morganza spellway. the swollen mississippi is gushing through those gates with a greater force than the water going over niagara falls. this is supposed to be the surest way to spare cities like new orleans from another tragic flood. so butte la rose, which sits on a flood plain, knows that all that water is, instead, barreling down on them. likely to swallow up their homes, their businesses, their memories. how high do you think it will be right where we are? >> you and i's heads will definitely be under the water. >> reporter: this is the parish president. kind of like the mayor. and says he's staying. >> it really is heart wrenching that we are going to be sacrificed for others. it's a numbers game i guess. >> reporter: what we found most remarkable is that there's no panic in this little haven. like the river flowing through town, high water is in their blood. >> my grandfather fought in the flood of '27.
here we are in 2011, i'm fighting high waters. i got my son with me this morning. no telling but in years to come he'll be fighting high waters but we keep coming back. nothing's going to push us out of louisiana. >> reporter: kate buchanan says she certainly isn't going nowhere. >> nope. >> reporter: though she is shipping out her prize pod sessions. >> i already took my cadillac and my mink coat out. >> reporter: even with the water now covering her garden and creeping towards her house, she's so far staying put. >> they forecast the worst. the worst-case scenario. i'm just one of those, you know, let's -- >> reporter: optimists? >> yeah, and let's see it. i'm preparing. i'm not being foolish. but, you know, let's see it. let's see it. >> reporter: if she does see too much of it, she'll lose not only her home but her business too. kate's place is the one and only bar in town. >> everybody is just stoic.
they understand. you know. people down in new orleans got it a few years ago. there's a lot fewer people here. these folks are made of much sterner stuff here. we're not gonna whine and cry. >> reporter: those that haven't already left town are nothing if not resourceful. ron figured since he was waiting, why not wrap his entire house in plastic? >> i came back and i put some sand. pulled it back. >> reporter: they say the water's going to be taller than the two of us. how is this going to make a difference? >> yeah, but you got different levels. may be higher. may be three feet here. >> reporter: down the street, max built his own levee. a combination of sandbags, dirt and hope. >> people are strong here. they're going to rebuild better than ever. it's home for a lot of people. it's god's country. people love it here. so they'll be back. bigger and better than ever.
>> reporter: and so they stack the sandbags. wrap their houses. and pray. >> you want to live on this river and enjoy the bird life and the wildlife and the serenity, this is the other end of it. this is the other side of the coin. >> reporter: by the end of this week, most predictions have kate buchan buchanan's bar under water. but tonight with each hour, waert inches closer. i'm yunji de nies for "nightline" in butte la rose, louisiana. >> thanks to yunji for that. finally tonight, the space shuttle "endeavour" lifted off on its 25th and final flight today. commanding that shuttle six-man crew, captain mark kelly, and husband of wounded congresswoman gabby gifford. congresswoman gifford was well enough to attend the liftoff. she watched in her wheelchair, and was quote as saying "good stuff, good stuff," as the ut